People retire from the workforce everyday, but last Thursday a special person in my life called it a day after 39 years in healthcare, most of them working as a paramedic.

John Godin, a native of Pembroke who has made the Eganville area his home for more than the last three decades, signed off with dispatch for the last time at 5:30 from his vehicle parked at the Eganville paramedic base. It was an emotional few minutes for John, who ended his career in the position of commander, as he was joined by several co-workers and family members. After he booked 10-7 for the final time, he pressed a button on his I-phone and it began playing “I did it my way.”

John Godin is my hero. During his career responding to hundreds and hundreds of medical calls, he undoubtedly saved many lives. But paramedics are rarely, if ever, recognized for saving a life. After all, that’s their job, isn’t it? That’s what they trained for and that’s what they get paid for. But each and every day, they save lives. One of those lifesaving calls was to 150 John Street, Eganville, in the late evening of September 2, 1996. I was the victim.

I have had more than a few brushes with death since age 39 (we won’t count the near three drownings when I was younger and a few Friday and Saturday nights when our guardian angels brought us home safely), but my closest encounter occurred on that Labour Day evening. Bryan Hendry was a staff reporter back then and he and I were finishing the paper. We had sent brother Ron ahead home since Bryan and I had a couple of items to finish on one page and then write our columns for the editorial page.

A few days prior, I began taking pills to deal with pain from a severely sore shoulder, but little did I know I was having a slow reaction to the medication. It slowly ate a hole in my stomach and by that Monday night I was passing so much blood I didn’t have the energy to get Bryan’s attention who was only 15 feet away from the bathroom in his office.

After more than a half hour, I was able to muster up enough strength to open the bathroom door and get his attention. He was typing away at his column but the subject changed in mid-stream. I never did get to finish mine. He hadstarted writing a column comparing the Killaloe  vs. Petawawa baseball series to the World Cup of Hockey, but the finished version was about that night’s experience. In part he wrote:

“Instead, I’m pretty rattled over having my editor, Gerald Tracey, take a bad turn as we were completing the last two pages of the paper Monday night.

“I won’t go into details but the ambulance did arrive very quickly – about eight minutes. But those minutes seemed like an eternity.

“There wasn’t much I could do but get a cold cloth for his head, get some orange juice and hold his hand. It was a pretty helpless feeling.

“The attendants did a fantastic job in trying to find out what was wrong and prepping Gerald for the trip to hospital.

“John Godin later came back from the hospital to say that Gerald was going to be alright but would need a blood transfusion.”

The Trip To Pembroke

I have had a few quick trips to Pembroke in my 51 years in reporting, responding to breaking news, but this ride with paramedic Kevin Carlson, who was driving, and John Godin at my side in the back was the fastest legal ride I’ve had.

I had lost a lot of blood and my vitals were slowly fading. I believe it was around Rankin when John got permission to put the shock pants on me. The medical term is MAST (Medical Anti-Shock Trousers) which shunts blood to the brain, heart and vital organs. Renfrew County paramedics had just been equipped with MASTS and I might have been one of the first people to use them.

Between Rankin and Shady Nook, there was more than one time John shouted at Kevin … “step on it Kevin, I’m losing his vitals.”

It’s quite a different feeling when your body is seemingly lifeless, but your mind is conscious. As I lay on the stretcher listening to the comforting and encouraging words of John … “hang in there, Gerald, we’re going to make it” … a peace and calmness came over me like I’ve never experienced before or since this incident … not even during my heart attack while attending Les McNulty’s funeral at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Renfrew.

It was when we were getting close to Pembroke that I began visioning the beautiful bright blue lights and the tunnel. This is referred to as a Near-Death Experience (NDE) and for anyone who has experienced it they believe it is a preview of what is in store for us after death. Science, however, has a different take and claims NDEs have nothing to do with the afterlife. Instead, they say they are illusions caused by the fading brain. But despite many attempts, no one has been able to scientifically explain all the elements of an NDE.

From the time I was loaded in the ambulance every minute counted. Luckily, it was around midnight when we approached the intersection of Highway 41 and 17 and we were able to sail through, albeit we may have went a little airborne when we crossed the intersection.

As my dear friend, Raye-Anne Briscoe of Renfrew says with frequency, to make a long story short … we made it. I got blood transfusions and was able to return home Wednesday.

That night, John and Kevin were still working the night shift and they dropped in for a visit to see how I was doing. Of course, my first question to John was: “Did you really think we were going to make it in time?”

His answer. “No. We shouldn’t be having this conversation.”

What Goes Around

So how do you thank people like John and Kevin? Words of appreciation just don’t seem to cut it.

However, it is always nice to see when good things happen to good people and what goes around comes around.

In 2018, when I was chairing the fundraising committee to build a children’s Splash Pad at Legion Field, one of our main fundraisers was selling tickets on a new 2018 Chevrolet pickup. John Godin won the grand prize! Was that good fortune, luck or coincidence? Or something good happening to a good person?

Perhaps Mr. Carlson should invest in one of those Hospice Renfrew Auto Lotto tickets. Who knows? It just might be his turn!

Enjoy your retirement, John!